If the words Lime Basil & Mandarin and Pomegranate Noir mean anything to you, you’re in luck. If not, you’re still in luck. Niche fragrance brand Jo Malone London has finally landed on Indian shores with their first store in Mumbai and now is the perfect time to hoard up on their unique perfumes and home scents. Their glossy bottles with a silver cap, minimalistic label and the unisex allure of the juice are perfect if you want to break away from all the fashion-brand scents crowding the scene. Flouting convention happens to be Jo Malone’s specialty.
The brand’s quiet, joyful revolution began in 1994 with their out-of-the-box unisex fragrances. Lime Basil & Mandarin, one of their first and now-iconic colognes, was in stark contrast to the complex, heady fragrances of the time. It was simple, fresh and mentioned the main notes on the label minus the frou-frou. Two decades later, they still haven’t lost their edge—their fragrances are just as whimsical and still a breath of fresh air in any room.
I visited their headquarters in March this year to know exactly what goes into making a typical Jo Malone London cologne. It wasn’t the standard office set-up I was expecting. Set inside a stunning 18th-century Georgian townhouse, tucked in a quiet street in London’s Marylebone district, it felt as if I’d gone over to a friend’s (a friend with an enviably fabulous life). The living room was all oak floors, buttermilk-silk curtains and cushy cream couches, crafted by interior designer Rose Uniacke, who is known for expertly mixing old and new to create spaces that are warm and familiar yet elegant—much like how one would describe Jo Malone. There were clusters of fresh flowers and candles (their popular Peony & Blush Suede) everywhere, on the winding staircase, mantles and coffee tables. Jo Malone moved in here in 2012 and has actualised some of its most exciting ideas (like the Basil & Neroli cologne) under this roof. The company’s leading ladies took me through the journey of a Jo Malone fragrance, from whim to bottled wonder.
It’s Truly English
Jo Malone London has always been rooted in British culture, history and design. Peonies, bluebells, works of British photographer and designer Cecil Beaton— even that good ol’ cup of Earl Grey tea—have inspired their perfumes. It’s safe to say that they’re not always inclined towards the big trend. Instead, there’s a sense of nostalgia and effusiveness captured by each juice. “It starts with a story that’s mainly based around the country—from the windswept coasts of England, childhood memories of picking blackberries—and then travels to the modern streets of London,” said Wandjina Glasheen-Brown, vice president of global creative, Jo Malone London.
Which means that the journey to create a new scent is just as important as the final destination, and the team travels across the UK, experiencing these stories firsthand. Celine Roux, the global vice president for product development, said, “When we did a collection on English pudding, I spent an entire day in London with the perfumer eating only desserts, like Eton mess and ginger biscuits. For Wild Bluebell [based on the English flower that only blooms for 10 days in a year], we went into the woodlands to smell the flowers in their natural environment.”
Experiences like these have over time crystallised into a collection of 20 colognes ranging from citrus to spicy, and seven intense colognes featuring deep, sensual accords, like dark amber, oud and incense. But the real beauty of Jo Malone London lies in their unpredictable pairings of notes, like their popular Peony & Blush Suede (inspired by the elegant women in Beaton’s portraits) that pairs an ultra-feminine flower with a hard leathery note. Or even Blackberry & Bay, which is the scent of the tart fruit blended with fresh, verdant bay leaves. “There’s something unexpected in all our fragrances, but they all smell natural,” said Roux.
It’s Truly One Of A Kind
For years now, Jo Malone London has been the champion for anyone who enjoys creating their own signature scents. Their scented body care range and colognes allow you to mix and match different notes to create your own unique blend. Think of it as layering two or three fragrances that work for you and evolve through the day—they call it Fragrance Combining. “Fragrance Combining has been a part of our brand since the start—it adds a little twist to what you’re wearing,” said Debbie Wild, lifestyle director for the brand. So, you can make one to match your personality, the time of the day, a special occasion or tailor it to your next summer holiday. “You can have a fragrance wardrobe, so you’ll never get bored of wearing the same thing,” said Wild.
It’s quite easy to find your bespoke perfume too: drop by the Mumbai store and start at the Tasting Bar, a café-like table where you can spray and sniff their entire collection. Once you’ve found a favourite, their in-house expert will help you layer the aromas. Even if you decide to do it yourself, it’s not intimidating at all. “The colognes are designed in a way that they can be combined by you,” Roux explained. The easiest would be to choose two scents from the same family, like two florals. But unexpected pairings like a floral with something spicy may surprise you as well. In the end, Roux said, “You must trust your instincts. Try the new scents on yourself, live with them and see. You never know, you may just discover your new favourite.”
Once you’ve found your mix, layer it on your pulse points—the insides of your wrists or the nape of your neck. Lifestyle director Debbie Wild suggested, “You can have one for your body, and another in your hair that comes to life when you walk past.” You can also add nuances with a body wash or crème. Massage it into your skin and highlight it with cologne. “Think of it as adding earrings or accessories to your outfit,” she said.
Lifestyle director Debbie Wild tells you how to scent your space